How can you develop mental toughness? That is a great question, and depending who you ask, there are many different answers. However, what it really comes down to is striving to do more than you think you can do, and not giving up in the process. As wrestlers we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop mental toughness each and every day that we step onto the mat. If you aren’t mentally tough, you are going to have a rough go in your matches as well as life. But don’t worry, fortunately mental toughness is a learned skill, just about like anything else.
Let me share with you a couple of stories about me that helped me to develop mental toughness. The thing about mental toughness is that developing it is often times a challenge and is painful, but the lesson is generally worth the pain. While I was attending college at the University of Nebraska, we wrestled a 30 min live go one day. My partner was Matt Lindland, a world and Olympic silver medalist, the match was very one sided in his favor. He took me down in probably under a minute, then he rode me until the 15 minute mark. I tried to stand up, I couldn’t get away. I tried to roll, I couldn’t get away. I tried to switch, I couldn’t get away. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from him. I was frustrated and starting to get more and more tired every minute that passed with him on top of me. At the 15 minute mark, he cut me loose, and we were back wrestling on our feet once again. I was so glad to be back in a neutral position, and I felt like I would have a much better chance now that we were back standing. Unfortunately for me, I was dead wrong. He took me down again in under a minute and continued to ride me for the duration of the 30 min period.
The worst part about it wasn’t even that he rode me out, but rather the way that he did it. He was torturing me. He drove me to the edge of the mat in the corner and literally stuffed me in the corner. I was stuck in the corner furious that he had stuffed me in the corner, but I couldn’t get out. It was definitely a humbling experience that I will never forget. Despite my discomfort, something very positive came from that experience. I made up my mind right then and there, that I would never get ridden like that ever again. I worked harder and longer in that position to be able to get away from the best guys in the country, and the hard work paid off. I became very good and the bottom, and nobody ever rode me like that again.
Another time when I feel like I developed mental toughness was when I went on a run with a folding chair over my head. It was a running practice, and before we hit the track our coach told us to grab a metal folding chair. I didn’t have a clue as to why we would need chairs to go on a run, but I soon found out. We ran laps around the track, and all the while we were running we were supposed to keep pressing the chair up and down above our heads. A couple laps in and my shoulders were burning up. The chair didn’t weigh that much, but it sure felt heavy. By the end of the run, my shoulders were exhausted and I barely had the strength the keep it moving. I started to just let the chair bounce off of my head as I finished my last lap. It helped a little with the burning in the shoulders, but it didn’t do much to make my head feel good.
After the run, I put my chair away and was happy that I was able to finish with the chair above my head. I had finished doing something that was difficult, and I didn’t give up in the process. So the next time that you are looking to develop more mental toughness realize a few key things.
1) Do more than you think that you can do
2) Don’t give up
3) Try not to get too discouraged when you hit a rough patch or things get hard. Keep going and they will get better.
Thanks for reading our blog, and please come in for a practice. You can see our practice times here. Keep training hard and remember “Don’t think, just throw.” – Coach Ruiz